“To sleep; perchance to dream: ay there’s the rub: for in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”
from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Two octogenarians meet in a bar. The Republican says to the Democrat: “Three things happen when you get old.”
“Yea,” says the Democrat. “Tell me about it.”
“The first thing,” says the Republican with a sly smile, “is you lose your sex drive.”
“A great loss for you I’d imagine,” says the Democrat with a laugh.
“Oh get over it,” says the Republican. “I have access to the most beautiful women in the world. Never in history has anyone been surrounded by more beautiful women. Another thing as you well know is that you lose your memory.” The Republican smugly nurses his mineral water confident he’s regained the upper hand.
“So,” says the Democrat, “what’s the third thing.”
“Oh shit!” says the Republican. “I forget. Who the hell cares.”
A majority of Americans believe both major Presidential candidates are too old. A majority of Americans don’t want a Biden-Trump rematch. The Republicans tie themselves in knots to defend the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump. The Democrats whisper to each other what they won’t say in public, Biden is beyond his use by date.
We have only a few months left to make a course change. The odds are against us. I had a short discussion with one of my grandsons last week about politics. He’s about to turn fifteen. He said he wishes we could have pride in our country again. I think we could all agree on that. But, to have pride we must do something that makes us proud. There’s the rub.
For several months I’ve had this recurring dream. A train wreck is coming. We all see it. Yet, no one acts to avert it.
In some ways our current conundrum is reminiscent of the Trolley Problem which Think in the Morning wrote about back in 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected against all odds.
We wrote then:
The Sophie’s Choice-like decision that must be made in the Trolley Problem boils down to one or another aspect of: is it permissible to kill one person to save five? A strict Utilitarian would say yes because five lives are more valuable than one. An Intuitive Moralist would find it unacceptable or at least uncomfortable to take an innocent life even if five lives are saved as a result. Could it be that the political conundrums we see in 2016 are a type of Trolley Problem?
The conclusion we reached was guardedly optimistic.
Unlike in the Trolley Problem, we have a choice. We can be utilitarian and intuitively moral at the same time. We don’t have to kill one to save five. We don’t have to close our borders. We don’t have to stop trading with the rest of the world. If we allocate adequate resources for education and retraining of workers who have lost their jobs, if we provide strong encouragement for people to improve their skills, if we help them financially during the transition, if we give them hope, if we create good jobs by investing in much needed infrastructure improvements at today’s low interest rates as , the Trolley Problem goes away.
There is nothing naïve or new here. The winter of our discontent has been with us for a long time. It will take work and time to change the negative trends. And it will take money. The obvious and proper way to pay for these suggestions is to invoke the , a crucial but too often neglected requirement to make a Pareto Optimality optimal. Those who benefit from the changes capitalism brings should share the benefits with those who lose through no fault of their own. They should compensate them for their losses. And, if that can’t be done, then we don’t have a Pareto Optimal situation. We have exploitation, we have deception and we have hornswoggling. And that won’t do.
Unfortunately our optimism was misplaced. We did what we often do, we kicked the problem down the road. We are about to do it again. Innocent people, especially children, are suffering in Ukraine, in Gaza, and along our own border. The train wreck is at hand. We all see it. We may want to ignore it, take the easy way out. Roll over and play dead. But who knows “in that sleep of death what dreams may come.”
America is a great country. The world looks to us as a beacon of democracy. Let’s prove ourselves worthy. Let’s act in a way that makes us proud. Let’s change course now before it’s too late. If the Democratic and Republican parties want to remain relevant they must make themselves relevant. We still have time but it’s dwindling fast.